Politico reports today that Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “are locked in an increasingly intense debate over a shared value: education benefits for veterans.” McCain has made “himself a target by refusing to endorse Webb’s new GI education bill and instead signing on to a Republican alternative.” McCain has charged that Webb’s Senate staff “has not been eager to negotiate” on the bill. “He’s so full of it,” Webb replied, adding, “I have personally talked to John three times. I made a personal call to [McCain aide] Mark Salter months ago asking that they look at this.”
Stories tagged with “Jim Webb”
On his first day in office in January 2007, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007, intended to be “a mirror image of the WW II G.I. Bill.” A new version with broad bipartisan support was introduced in February to help fund education for service members who had served in active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Veterans would receive education benefits equaling the highest tuition rate of the most expensive in-state public college or university and a monthly stipend for housing.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America hailed Webb’s bill, calling educational benefits “the military’s single most effective recruitment tool” and emphasizing that “an expanded GI Bill will play a crucial role in ensuring that our military remains the strongest and most advanced in the world.”
Today, The Hill reports that Webb is still waiting for an important co-sponsor who could help push other Republicans to approve the bill: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):
“McCain needs to get on the bill,” Webb told reporters after a Christian Science Monitor breakfast meeting on Wednesday. He said legislation mirroring the post-World War II GI bill should not be considered a “political issue.” [...]
Webb’s bill has 51 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans. Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, said he may have to get 60 co-sponsors to ensure Senate passage, but then added that many more Republicans could vote for the bill if McCain endorsed it.
McCain prides himself on being “a tireless advocate of our military.” Yet this is hardly the first time that Webb has taken McCain to task when it comes to veterans’ advocacy. In September, McCain refused to support Webb’s bill to ensure service members get adequate time at home between deployments. McCain castigated the effort, declaring he “hoped” Congress would reject the bill because it “would create chaos.”
McCain boasts on his website that he “fought to extend the availability of G.I. bill education benefits for Vietnam veterans.” Yet he has been notably silent on extending those same benefits to today’s veterans. Perhaps, like the Pentagon, he is resisting the bill “out of fear that too many will use it.”
McCain has repeatedly voted to funnel billions of dollars to fund the war in Iraq, whose costs along with the war in Afghanistan, according to some experts, have already totaled more than $3 trillion. By contrast, the cost of the new G.I. bill is projected to be about $2.5 billion a year — roughly the cost of U.S. operations in Iraq for one week.
Bush recently announced a new, “enduring” occupation of Iraq, to be implemented without Congress’ approval. Today, Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) warned Bush against committing the U.S. to a long-term presence without congressional consent:
[W]e want to convey our strong concern regarding any commitments made by the United States with respect to American security assurances to Iraq to help deter and defend against foreign aggression or other violations of Iraq’s territorial integrity. Security assurances, once made, cannot be easily rolled back without incurring a great cost to America’s strategic credibility and imperiling the stability of our nation’s other alliances around the world. [...]
It is unacceptable for your Administration to unilaterally fashion a long-term relationship with Iraq without the full and comprehensive participation of Congress from the very start of such negotiations. [...]
We trust you agree that the proposed extension of long-term U.S. security commitments to a nation in a critical region of the world requires the full participation and consent of the Congress as a co-equal branch of our government.
On MSNBC’s Hardball today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) said that his colleagues, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who introduced a hawkish Iran resolution in the Senate, are “carrying water for the administration, for the hawks inside the administration” by amping up rhetoric in the Senate against Iran. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” said Webb. He then added, “the Cheney element of the administration is well represented in the Senate.” Watch it:
UPDATE: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) offered a non-binding resolution today “affirming that any offensive military action taken against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress before such action may be initiated.”
On MSNBC’s Countdown last night, host Keith Olbermann asked Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a military veteran and former Secretary of the Navy, to respond to right wing radio host Rush Limbaugh’s recent comment that troops who support withdrawal from Iraq are “phony soldiers.” “I really regret Mr. Limbaugh saying things like that,” replied Webb. The military has “a wide variety of political viewpoints, from all the way for this to all the way against it, and we need to respect that,” he added. Watch it:
On the Senate floor today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) made an impassioned appeal to his fellow senators, declaring that the Lieberman-Kyl amendment on Iran should be “withdrawn” because the “proposal is Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.” Webb cautioned that the “cleverly-worded sense of the Congress” could be “interpreted” to “declare war” on Iran. He continued:
Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach. Because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good.
“At best, it’s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy,” said Webb. “At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate.” Watch it:
Webb said that amendment’s attempt to categorize the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp as “a foreign terrorist organization” would, for all practical purposes, “mandate” the military option against Iran. “It could be read as tantamount to a declaration of war. What do we do with terrorist organizations? If they are involved against us, we attack them.”
He also slammed the lack of debate and examination that was accompanying the amendment, saying “this is not the way to make foreign policy”:
We haven’t had one hearing on this. I’m on the Foreign Relations Committee, I’m on the Armed Services Committee. We are about to vote on something that may fundamentally change the way the United States views the Iranian military and we haven’t had one hearing. This is not the way to make foreign policy. It’s not the way to declare war.
On the Senate floor this morning, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said that proposals to withdraw troops and restore the strength of the armed forces are “legislating a defeat” in Iraq.
This afternoon on CNN, responding to Lieberman’s criticisms, Webb reminded the public that he was warning in September 2002 that we were “heading for trouble” if we went to war in Iraq:
I was warning about the consequences of invading and occupying Iraq well before we went in. … I don’t know where Sen. Lieberman gets his opinions about how well we’re doing. [...]
You have a government in Iraq that has no power. It has very little power — it cannot compel action and it’s surrounded by armed factions that retain the power. That is not a situation we’re going to resolve without the interaction of all the countries in the region in a positive, proactive diplomatic way. And that’s what I’ve been saying for three years.
Webb is sponsoring an amendment that would restore the strength of the military by requiring every soldier who is deployed overseas to receive at least the same amount of rest when they return home. Senate conservatives have announced that they will filibuster the bill.
In a statement for ThinkProgress, Center for American Progress senior fellow Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense, said:
Regardless of whether a member supports a phased withdrawal of American forces from Iraq or continues to support President Bush’s latest escalation, he or she should support the Webb-Hagel amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill.
It takes two full years at home or after a one year deployment for a unit to become fully combat ready. Spending a year at home after a year in the combat zone is barely enough time to get themselves marginally ready physically and mentally for the next deployment. Giving them last time would mean sending units and individuals into battle who are not combat ready.
Members cannot vote against Webb-Hagel and claim they support the troops. Sending people back for another tour without the same amount of time at home as the length of their tour is wrong strategically and morally.